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160 VIRGINIA HISTORICAL MAGAZINE. 



LETTER FROM JOHN ROLFE TO SIR THOS. DALE. 
(From the original) 

[We are indebted to Mr. Benjamin L. Bowling, of the Uni- 
versity of Illinois for a photographic fac-simile of the well- 
known letter from John Rolfe to Sir Thomas Dale in regard to 
his marriage with Pocahontas and for the exact transcript 
which follows. Mr. Bowling writes 

"Care has been used in order that it be exact in every parti- 
cular, except that the s has been modernized, the impossibility 
of writing it otherwise on the typewriter being obvious. The 
orthography, as to contractions etc., has been strictly adhered 
to; 

v and u has been retained as in the original. Incorrectly 
spelled words as, "theise" (these), "beninge"' (benign), "passe" 
(pause), etc., are so retained. Very careful attention has been 
paid to capitalization, that of the character for J and I, by care- 
ful comparison in each case is considered as I except in the signa- 
ture, where the character differs and is very clearly J. The 
length of each line has been observed. 

Note, on the first page, Rolfe's spelling of the name "Poha- 
huntas" as compared with that generally used. 

The third page is quite different from Hamor's version, and 
from all later versions since they are reprints from Hamor, in 
that lines twenty-six to and including half of the line thirty- 
seven are omitted. 

The letter, consisting of two leaves of Bodleian Manuscript, 
Ashmole 830, folios 118 and 119, is written on folios 1 and 2 of a 
gathering of four leaves of which folios 3 and 4 are in the manu- 
script but blank. They are bound in the manuscript. 

The pages are 12" inches high and 7* inches wide. The 
photographs are as near the exact size as the photographer 
could make them. 



LETTER FROM ROLPE TO DALE 151 

The letter was found in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, during 
the summer of 1906, by David I. Bushnell, Jr., and a fragment 
was reproduced in the American Anthropologist, Vol. 9, in 1907. 
The photographs, sent herewith, were made the past summer, 
at my request, by the official photographer of the library, and 
the description was furnished by the librarian. This is the first 
time, as far as I am aware, that the original letter has been 
reproduced in.its entirety. 

The finding of the letter forestalls any possibility of future 
iconoclastic controvercy regarding its authenticity. Neill in 
"The English Colonization of America During the Seventeenth 
Century" page 76, says, "Why Rolfe should not have talked 
with Dale at Jamestown it is difficult to conceive. The letter 
referred to is appended to the narrative (Hamor's), and makes 
about seven printed pages, and is a laboured treatise, giving 
reasons when a Christian should marry a heathen, and has the 
musty smell of the dusty study of a London divine, rather than 
the fragrance of a letter written by a man in love." Consider- 
ing the trend of his arguments in that chapter (see also pages 
79 and 80) the note cited seems but a very subtle questioning 
of such a letter having been written by Rolfe. It but remained 
for some more radical controvercialist to have denied its having 
been indited, as was done by Dr. Brown in regard to Smith's 
letter to Queen Anne at the time of the visit of Pocahontas to 
England. Just here may I say that the discovery of Rolfe's 
letter, written on his return from England, which was printed 
in Vol. X of the "Virginia Magazine of History and Biography", 
not only corrected Dr. Brown's deduction as to the favorable 
weather during the return, but also corrects the doubt cast as to 
Capt. Smith's veracity. On page 968 of the "Genesis" he says 
"Smith says that Sir Lewis Stukely took charge of her child, 
Thomas Rolfe. Other accounts make it appear that the child 
was left with his uncle, Henry Rolfe." Rolfe himself says that 
the child was left with Sir Lewis Stukely till his brother could 
get him. 

Three hundred years ago, about the fifth of April, Rolfe and 
Pocahontas were married. Is it not an opportune time for the 
letter to appear in its true form in your April magazine? 



152 VIRGINIA HISTORICAL MAGAZINE. 

We regret that it is impossible, on account of the length of the 
lines in the original, for us to print a line for line version 
and that it is also impossible for us to reproduce the contractions 
&c Editor.] 



When your leisure shall best serve you to pvse theise lynes, I 
trust in God the begynninge will not strike you into a greater 
admiracon, then the ende will gyve you good Content. It is a 
matter of noe small moment, Conceminge myne owne pticular, 
wch heare I impart vnto you, and wch toucheth me soe nearely 
as the tendernes of my Salvacon. Howebeit I freely subiect 
myselfe to yor grave & mature Iudgement, deliberacon, appro- 
bacon, and determynacon, assuringe my selfe of yor zealous 
admonicons & godly Comforts; either pswadinge me to desist, 
or encouraginge me to psist herein wth a religious feare, & godly 
Care, ffor wth (from the very instant that this beganne to 
roote it selfe wthin the secrett bosome of my hart) my dailye & 
earnest prayers have byn, still are, and over shalbe powred 
foorth wth a sincere & godly zeale to be directed, ayded and 
governed in all my thoughts, woords, and deeds, to the glory of 
God, and for my eternall Consolacon to psever wherein I never 
had more neede, nor (till nowe) coulde ever ymagyne to have 
byn moved wth the lyke occasion But (my Case standinge 
as it doth) what better wordly refuge can I heere seeke, then to 
shelter my selfe vnder the safety of yor favourable pteccon? and 
didd not my Cause pceede from an vnspotted & vndefiled Con- 
science) I shoulde not dare to offer to your view & approved 
Iudgement these passions of my troubled Soule, soe full of feare 
and tremblinge is hipocrisie &*dissimulacon. But knoweinge 
myne owne innocency, & godly fervor in the whole prosecucon 
hereof, I doubt not of yor beninge acceptance and Clement 
construction. As for malitious depravors, & turbulent Spiritts, 
to whome nothinge Is tastefull, but what pleaseth there vn- 
savoury palate, I passe not for them" beinge well assured (by 
the often tryall and provinge my selfe in my holiest meditacons 
and prayers) that I ame called herevnto by the spiritt of God* 
and it shalbe sufficient for me to be protected by yor selfe in all 



LETTER FROM ROLFE TO DALE 153 

vertuous & pious endeavors. And for my more happy pro- 
ceedinge herein my daily oblacons shalbe ever addressed to 
bringe to passe soe good effects that yor selfe and all the worlde 
maye truely saye, this is ye woorke of God and merveilous in our 
eyes. 

But to avoide teadious preambles, and to come more neare the 
matter, ffirst suffer me wth yor patience to sweepe & make 
cleane the waye wherein I walke from all suspicons and doubte 
wch maye lye covered therein, and faithfully to reveale vnto 
you what shoulde move me therevnto. 

Lett therefore this my well advised ptestacon, wch here I make 
betweene God and my owne Conscience be a sufficient wyttnes, 
at the dreadfull day od Iudgement (when the secretts of all mens 
harts shalbe opened) to condemne me herein yf my chief e intent 
& purpose be not to stryve with all my power of boddy and 
mynde in the vndertakinge of soe waighty a matter (noe waye 
leade soe farr foorth as mans weaknes may pmytt, wth thevn- 
bridled desire of Carnall affection) for the good of the Plantacon, 
the honor of or Countrye, for the glorye of God, for myne owne 
salvacon, and for the Convertinge to the true knowledge of God 
and Iesus Christ an vnbeleivinge Creature, namely Pohahuntas" 
To whom emy hart and best thoughts are and have byn a longe 
tyme soe intangled & inthralled in soe intricate a Laborinth, 
that I was even awearied to vnwynde my selfe thereout. But 
Almighty God whoe never faileth his that truely invocate his 
holy name, hathe opened the Gate and ledd my be the hande, 
that I might playnely see and discerne the safest pathes wherein 
to treade. 

To you therefore (most noble Sr) the Patron and ff ather of vs 
in this Countrye, doe I vtter the effects of my longe Contynued 
affection (wch haue made a mighty warre in my medytacons) 
and here I doe truely relate to what issue this dangerous Com- 
batt is come vnto wherein I have not onely examyned, but 
throughly tryed & pared my thoughts even to the Quicke, before 
I coulde fynde and fitt wholesome and apt applicacons to Cure 
soe dangerous an vlcer. I never failed to offer my dailye and 
faithfull prayers to God for hys sacred and holye assistance, I 
forgatt not to sett before myne eyes the frailtie of mankynde, 



154 VIRGINIA HISTORICAL MAGAZINE. 

his proxies to ill, his indulgency of wicked thoughts wth many 
other impfections, wherein man is daylie insnared, and often 
tymes overthrowen, and them Compared wth my present 

estate. 

Woe am I ignorant of the heavy displeasure wch Almighty God 
Conceyved against the Sonnes of Leuie and Israeli for marrienge 
of straunge wyves, nor of the inconvenyences wch maye thereby 
anise, wih other the lyke good mocons wch made me looke 
aboute warely and with circuspection, into the grounde and 
principall agitacons wch thus shoulde provoke me to be in love 
wth one, whose education hath byn rude, her manners barbarous, 
her generacon Cursed, and soe discrepant in all nutriture from 
my selfe, that often tymes with feare and tremblinge I haue 
ended my pryvate Controversie wth this, Surely theise are 
wicked instigations hatched by him whoe seeketh and delighteth 
in mans distinction, And soe wth fervent prayers to be ever 
preserved from such diabolicall assaults I have taken some rest. 
Thus when I haue thought, I have onteyned my peace and 
Quyetnes beholde, an other, but more gratious temptacon hath 
made breaches into my holiest and strongest meditacons with 
which I have byn putt to a newe tryall, in the stricter manner 
then the former, ffor (besides the many passions and sufferings 
wch I have daylie, howerly, yea in my sleepe endured even 
awakeinge me to astonishment, taxinge me wth remissnes and 
Carelessnes refusinge and neglectinge to pforme, the duety of a 
good Christian, pullinge me by the eare, and cryene why doest 
not thowe endeavour to make her a Christian; and these haue 
happened to my greater wonder, even when shee hath byn 
farthest sepated from me, wch in Comon reason (were it not an 
vndoubted woorke of god) might breede a forgettfullnes of a 
farre more woorthy Creature) besides this I saye, the holy 
Spiritt of God hath often demaunded of me, why I was Created ? 
if not for transitory pleasures and worldly vanyties, but to 
labour in the Lords vyneyard there to sowe and plant, to nourishe 
and encrease the ffruyts thereof, daylie addinge wth the good 
husband of the Gospell somewhat to the Tallent'' that in the 
ende the ffruyts may be reaped to the Comfort of Laborer in 
this lyfe, and in the worlde to come, And yf this, as vndoubtedly, 



LETTER PROM ROLFS TO DALE 155 

This is the service Iesus Christ Christ requyreth of his best ser- 
vants And woe to him that hath theise Instruments of pietye 
offered and putt into his hands, and willfully dispise to woorke 
wth them. Lykewyse addinge heerevnto her greate apparance 
of love to me, her desyre to be taught and instructed in the 
knowledge of God her Capablenes of vnderstanding her aptnes 
and willingnes to receyve any good impression, and also the 
spirituall besides her owne incytements stirringe me vpp here- 
vnto. What shoulde I doe? shall I be of soe an vntoward a 
disposicon to refuse to leade the blynde into the right waye? 
shall I be soe vnnaturall not to gyve breade to the hungry, or soe 
vncharitable not to Cover the naked? shall I dispise to actuate 
theise pious duetyes of a Christian? shall the base feare of 
displeasinge the worlde overpower and wthholde me from 
revealinge to man theise spirituall woorkes of the Lorde, wch 
in my medytacons and my prayers I have daylie made knowne 
vnto him. God forbidd" I assuredly trust he hath thus dealt 
wth me for my eternall felicitye, for his glory, and I hope soe to 
be guyded by his heavenly grace, That in the ende by my faith- 
full paynes and Christianlyke labour I shall attayne to that 
blessed promise pronounced by the holye Prophett Daniell to 
the righteous, that bringe many to the true knowledge of God, 
namely, that they shall shine lyke the Starres for ever and ever. 
A sweeter comfort cannott be to a true Christian nor a greater 
encouragement for him to labour all the dayes of his lyfe in the 
pformance thereof, nor a greater gayne of Consolacon to be 
desired at the hower of death, and at the daye of Iudgement. 
Agayne for the lawfullnes of marriage. I hope I doe not farre 
erre from the meaninge of the holy Apostle, That the vnbe- 
leivinge husband is sanctified by the beleivings wyefe, and the 
vnbeleivinge wiefe by the beleivinge husband &c. vppon wch 
place Mr Calvin in his Institucons lib. 4. cap. 16° Sect 6° sayeth, 
Even as the Children of the Iewes were called a holy seede, 
becawse beinge made heires of the same Covenant wch the 
Lorde made wth Abraham, they were different from the Children 
of the vngodly ffor the same reason even yett also the Children 
of Christians are accompted holye, yea although they be the 



156 VIRGINIA HISTORICAL MAGAZINE. 

yssue but of one parent faithfull, and (as the Prophett wytness- 
eth) they differ frome the vncleane seede of Idolatry. And thus 
wth my readinge and conference wth honest and religious psones 
have I receaved noe small incouragement, besides serena mea 
conscientia, pure from the f ylth of impuritye quce est instar muri 
ahenei. If I shoulde sett downe at lardge the pturbacons and 
godly motions wch have stroue wthin me in this my godly Con- 
flict. I shoulde but make a tedious and vnnecessary volume, 
but I doubt not these shalbe sufficient both to Certifie you of my 
true intente, in dischardginge my duety to God, and to your 
selfe. To whose gratious providence I humbly submytt my 
selfe for his Glorye, your honor our Countryes good, the benefitt 
of this Plantacon, and for the Convertinge an irregenerate to 
regeneracon, which I beseech God to graunte for his deare sonne 
Christ Iesus sake. 

Nowe if the vulgar sorte, whoe square all mens actions by 
the bare rule of theire owne filthines, shall taxe or taunt me 
in this my godly labor, Lett them knowe tis not my hungrye 
appetite to gorge my selfe wth incontinencye, Sure (if I woulde 
and were soe sensually inclyned) I might satisfie suche desire, 
though not wthout a seared Conscience, yet wth Christians more 
pleasinge to the eye and lesse fearefull in the offence vnlawfully 
Comytted. Nor am I in soe desperate estate that I regarde not 
what becometh of me, nor am I out of hope but one daye to see 
my Countrye nor soe voyde of ffriends, nor meane in Birth but 
there to obtayne a matche to my greate content nor have I 
ignorantly passed over my hoapes there, or regardlessly seeke to 
loose the love of my ffriends by takinge this Course. I knowe 
them all & have not rashely overslipped any. But shall it please 
God thus to dispose of me (which I earnestly desire to fulfill my 
ends afore sett downe) I will hartely accept it as a godly taxe 
appointed me, And I will never cease (god assistinge me) vntill 
I have accomplished and brought to pfection soe holy a woorke, 
in wch I will daylie praye God to blesse me to myne and her 
eternall happines. And thus desireinge noe longer to lyve to 
enioye the blessings of God, then this my Resolucon doe tende 
to suche godly endes as are by me before declared, not doubtinge 



LETTER FROM ROLPE TO DALB 157 

of your gracious acceptance, I take my leave beseechinge Al- 
mighty God to rayne downe vppon you such plentiude of his 
heavenly graces as your harte can wishe and desire. Ans doe 
I reste 

At yor Commaund most willinge 
to be desposed. 

Jo Rolfe.